¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The Duke now proceeds to reproach him for his wrongdoing in a somewhat milder tone.[62.2] He advises him to think better of it; he will forget what he has heard; he is reassured that Blanca does not agree with the Earl and that she herself would have said the same thing to him had he, the Duke, not beat her to it. He finally ends: “Once again, Earl, examine your conscience! Distance yourself from such a disgraceful plan! Be yourself again! And if you do not follow my advice, remember that you have a head, and London has an executioner!”[*][62.3] – With this the Duke departs. Essex is left in the most extreme confusion: it pains him to know himself taken for a traitor, but at the same time he dare not defend himself to the Duke at this time, he must be patient and wait until the outcome demonstrates that he was most loyal to his Queen in the very moment when he seemed to be least so.[†][62.4] He speaks to himself thusly; to Blanca, however, he says that he will send the letter to her uncle right away, and exits. Blanca also leaves, after cursing her unlucky stars but then consoling herself that it is no one worse than the Duke who knows of the Earl’s plot.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The Queen appears with her chancellor, to whom she has confided what happened to her in the garden. She orders that her guards occupy all points of access; tomorrow she will return to London. The chancellor thinks they should have the assassins pursued and make a public proclamation promising a handsome reward to the person who informs against them, even if he himself is one of the conspirators. “For since there were two who committed the attack,” he says, “one of them might easily be just as faithless a friend as he is a faithless subject.”[‡][62.5] – But the Queen rejects this advice; she thinks it is much better to suppress the whole incident and not to let it be known at all that there are people who would have the audacity to commit such a deed. “We must,” she says, “make the world believe that kings are so well guarded that it is impossible for traitors to come near them. Extraordinary crimes are better concealed than punished. For the example of the punishment is inseparable from the example of the sin, and the latter can incite just as much as the former can discourage.”[§][62.6]
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Meanwhile Essex is announced and let in. The report he gives of the happy success of his expedition is brief. The Queen says to him, in a very obliging manner: “Just seeing you again gives me enough knowledge about the outcome of the war.”[**][62.7] She does not want to hear any further details before she has rewarded his service, and she orders the chancellor to immediately issue the Earl a patent as Admiral of England. The chancellor goes; the Queen and Essex are alone; the conversation becomes more intimate; Essex is wearing the sash; the queen notices it, and Essex would have deduced from this comment alone that it came from her, had he not deduced this already from what Blanca said. The queen has long loved the Earl in secret, and now she even owes him her life.[††][62.8] It costs her every effort to hide her inclinations. She asks various questions to draw him out and hear whether his heart is already taken and whether he guesses whose life he saved in the garden. Through his answers he gives her to understand that he has, and, at the same time, that he feels more for this person than he might have the audacity to reveal. The Queen is on the brink of revealing herself to him; but her pride wins out over her love. The Earl must struggle with his pride just as much: he cannot free himself of the thought that the Queen loves him, even though he recognizes the presumptuousness of this thought. (It’s obvious that this scene would have to consist primarily of speeches that each gives as asides.) She orders him to go and then orders him to wait until the chancellor brings him the patent. He brings it, she presents it to him, he gives his thanks, and the asides begin again with renewed passion:
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 (Is that not a peculiar type of conversation? They speak to each other, and also do not speak to each other. The one hears what the other does not say, and responds to what he has not heard. Rather than taking the words out of each other’s mouths, they take them from each other’s souls. However, it should not be said that one must be a Spaniard to have a taste for such unnatural affectations. Around thirty years ago we Germans still had just as much a taste for it; our “state and hero plays,” which were patterned in every respect after the Spanish model, teemed with them.)[62.10]
¶ 22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 After the queen has granted leave to Essex and ordered him to attend on her again soon, they exit separately and this concludes the first act. – Spanish plays, as we know, have only three acts, which they call Jornadas, days. Their oldest plays had four: they crawled, Lope de Vega said, on all fours, like infants, for they really were still the infants of comedies.[62.11] Virués was the first to reduce the four acts to three, and Lope followed him in this, although he had also already written the first plays of his youth, or rather his childhood, in four acts.[62.12] We learn this from a passage in the latter’s The New Art of Writing Plays,[§§][62.13] which I find contradicts a passage from Cervantes,[***][62.14] in which he claims the fame of reducing Spanish plays from the five acts they previously consisted of to three. The Spanish literary critic can determine the outcome of this conflict; I do not wish to dwell on it.
Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0
[*] Miradlo mejor: dexad
un intento tan indigno,
corresponded á quien sois,
y sino bastan avisos,
mirad, que hay verdugo en Lóndres
y en vos cabeza: harto os digo.
Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0
[†] […] no he de responder al Duque
hasta que el suceso mismo
muestre como fuéron falsos
de mi traicion los indicios,
y que soy mas leal, quando
mas traidor he parecido.
Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0
[§] […] y es gran materia de estado
dar á entender que los Reyes
están en sí tan guardados,
que aunque la traicion los busque,
nunca ha de poder hallarlos;
y así, el secreto averigüe [sic]
enormes delitos, quanto
mas, que castigo y escarmiento
es ilacion el pecado.
Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0
[‡‡] REYN: Loco amor –
COND: Necio imposible –
REYN: Que ciego –
COND: Que temerario –
REYN: Me abates á tal baxezar –
COND: Me quieres subir tan alto –
REYN: Advierte, que soy la Reyna.
COND: Advierte, que soy vasallo.
REYN: Pues me humillas al abismo –
COND: Pues me acercas á los rayos –
REYN: Sin reparar mi grandeza –
COND: Sin mirar mi humilde estado –
REYN: Ya que te admito acá dentro –
COND: Ya que en mí te vas entrando –
REYN: Muere entre el pecho y la voz.
COND: Muere entre el alma, y los labios.
Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0
[§§] Arte nuevo de hazer Comedias which is located after Lope’s Rimas.
El capitán Virúes, insigne ingenio,
puso en tres actos la comedia, que antes
andava en cuatro, como pies de niño,
que eran entonces niñas las comedias;
y yo las escriví, de onze, y doze años,
de a cuatro actos, y de a cuatro pliegos,
porque cada acto un pligo contenía […]
- ¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0
- [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
- [62.1] Actually published winter of 1768.
- [62.2] In , Lessing begins his analysis of The Unhappy Favourite: or, The Earl of Essex (1682) by John Banks; here Lessing continues, from , his extended synopsis and discussion of a “Spanish Essex” (Antonio Coello’s Dar la vida por su Dama, 1633). See [60.2].
- [62.3] For the quotation in Lessing’s footnote, see Coello 9–10.
- [62.4] Ibid., 10.
- [62.5] Ibid.
- [62.6] Ibid.
- [62.7] Ibid.
- [62.8] Ibid., 11.
- [62.9] Ibid., 11–12.
- [62.10] Lessing refers to hybrid plays popular with traveling troupes in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, which featured great figures of the past and present. These serio-comic works condensed literary tragedies both domestic and foreign (including Spanish plays of love and honor), adding to them the improvisation and ribaldry of Italian commedia dell’arte. Such plays were irksome to eighteenth-century theatre reformers such as Lessing and J. C. Gottsched, and historians typically follow their lead, describing these works as bombastic, sensational, and gory, as well as comically obscene. Tr. note: the phrase Lessing uses here, “Staats- und Helden-Actionen,” is a variant on the more familiar label “Haupt- und Staats-Aktionen” [“head and state actions”]; the most common translation of this generic designation is “chief and state plays,” others include “main and state action,” “monarch and state action,” and “political action plays.”
- [62.11] Lope Félix de Vega Carpio, commonly referred to as Lope de Vega (1562–1635): major playwright of the Spanish Golden Age.
- [62.12] Cristóbal de Virués (c.1550–c.1614): Spanish poet, playwright, and soldier.
- [62.13] See Vega, Arte Nueva de Hazer Comedias (1609) in Rimas 375–7; The New Art of Writing Plays 31.
- [62.14] Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616): renowned Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright; author of Don Quixote (1605, 1615). Lessing’s quotation is from the “Prologo al lector” [“Prologue to the Reader”] in Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos [Eight New Plays and Interludes] (Cervantes 7).